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19 August 2009

Laurent Millet – Discovery Award, Rencontres d’Arles 2009

Presented by Alain Desvergnes. Photographer, founder of the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie and artistic director of the Rencontres d’Arles from 1979 to 1982.


Witches still meet by ponds to brew storms. This begetting of bad weather is done mainly at night: armed with long poles or huge wooden shovels, pock-faced characters vigorously beat the surface of the liquid in time, causing it to rise over thirty feet in the air. Their frenetic arms soon send the water whistling skyward. Its slenderent extremities turn to spray and reach the high regions of the atmosphere, assembling and condensing there. When day breaks, the stormcloud is begotten.

A translated extract from Folklore de France by P. Sébillot

Hast thou, spirit, Performed to point the tempest that I bade thee?

W. Shakespeare, The Tempest

The droplets turn to spray, gather and form images in the sky, following fantastical orders. The sorcerers described in this text are makers of storms but also of images: they have us believe that they are as much the masters of foul weather as are the figures in the sky, which all come from the depths of water whose gloom, helped by the night, communicates easily with the gloom of the air.

The images travel into the darkness of the water, open up the surface in a stroke of anger, scatter in the air, and finally arrange their drops according to the wishes of the one who is able to watch them. The image, born in the pond—the landscape’s eye—, remains liquid and, like the pond, obeys the same physical rules governing the movement of water; the laws that lead to the formation, movement and gathering of clouds.

I dream of an optical and meteorological photograph; of an image whose body is no less a phenomenon than hail, the blue-tinged light of lightning and the lacework of spume between rocks in a storm. I dream of an image with a body of silver and rain, which, ever so slightly, is beginning to be what it represents.

Laurent Millet

Exhibition venue: Grande Halle, Parc des Ateliers, Rencontres d’Arles 2009.